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Indigenous Children CRCGC11


The reason for this General Comment according to the CRC is that “Indigenous children continue to experience serious discrimination contrary to article 2 of the Convention in a range of areas, including in their access to health care and education, which has prompted the need to adopt this general comment”. (5. CRC/C/GC/11)

CRC/C/GC/11 Indigenous children and their rights under the Convention Geneva, 12 January-30 January 2009

We have selected the relevant provisions for education highlighting the keywords, but feel free to read the whole document :

3. Article 29 of the Convention provides that “education of the child shall be directed to the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin”.

                        7. The International Labour Organization Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, 1989 contains provisions which advance the rights of indigenous peoples and specifically highlights the rights of indigenous children in the area of education.

                        22. The Committee underlines that cultural practices provided by article 30 of the Convention must be exercised in accordance with other provisions of the Convention and under no circumstances may be justified if deemed prejudicial to the child’s dignity, health and development. Should harmful practices be present, inter alia early marriages and female genital mutilation, the State party should work together with indigenous communities to ensure their eradication. The Committee strongly urges States parties to develop and implement awareness-raising campaigns, education programmes and legislation aimed at changing attitudes and address gender roles and stereotypes that contribute to harmful practices.

                        As previously stated in the Committee’s general comment No. 5 on general measures of implementation, the non-discrimination obligation requires States actively to identify individual children and groups of children the recognition and realization of whose rights may demand special measures. For example, the Committee highlights, in particular, the need for data collection to be disaggregated to enable discrimination or potential discrimination to be identified. Addressing discrimination may furthermore require changes in legislation, administration and resource allocation, as well as educational measures to change attitudes.


(arts 28, 29 and 31 of the Convention)

                        56. Article 29 of the Convention sets out that the aims of education for all children should be directed to, among other objectives, the development of respect for the child’s cultural identity, language and values and for civilizations different from his or her own. Further objectives include the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding peace, tolerance, equality of sexes and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin. The aims of education apply to education for all children and States should ensure these are adequately reflected in the curricula, content of materials, teaching methods and policies. States are encouraged to refer to the Committee’s general comment no. 1 on the aims of education for further guidance.

                         57. The education of indigenous children contributes both to their individual and community development as well as to their participation in the wider society. Quality education enables indigenous children to exercise and enjoy economic, social and cultural rights for their personal benefit as well as for the benefit of their community. Furthermore, it strengthens children’s ability to exercise their civil rights in order to influence political policy processes for improved protection of human rights. Thus, the implementation of the right to education of indigenous children is an essential means of achieving individual empowerment and self-determination of indigenous peoples.

                         58. In order to ensure that the aims of education are in line with the Convention, States parties are responsible for protecting children from all forms of discrimination as set out in article 2 of the Convention and for actively combating racism. This duty is particularly pertinent in relation to indigenous children. In order to effectively implement this obligation, States parties should ensure that the curricula, educational materials and history text books provide a fair, accurate and informative portrayal of the societies and cultures of indigenous peoples. Discriminatory practices, such as restrictions on the use cultural and traditional dress, should be avoided in the school setting.

                         59. Article 28 of the Convention sets out that States parties shall ensure that primary education is compulsory and available to all children on the basis of equal opportunity. States parties are encouraged to make secondary and vocational education available and accessible to every child. However, in practice, indigenous children are less likely to be enrolled in school and continue to have higher drop out and illiteracy rates than non-indigenous children. Most indigenous children have reduced access to education due to a variety of factors including insufficient educational facilities and teachers, direct or indirect costs for education as well as a lack of culturally adjusted and bilingual curricula in accordance with article 30. Furthermore, indigenous children are frequently confronted with discrimination and racism in the school setting.

                         60. In order for indigenous children to enjoy their right to education on equal footing with non-indigenous children, States parties should ensure a range of special measures to this effect. States parties should allocate targeted financial, material and human resources in order to implement policies and programmes which specifically seek to improve the access to education for indigenous children. As established by article 27 of the ILO Convention No. 169, education programmes and services should be developed and implemented in co-operation with the peoples concerned to address their specific needs. Furthermore, governments should recognise the right of indigenous peoples to establish their own educational institutions and facilities, provided that such institutions meet minimum standards established by the competent authority in consultation with these peoples. States should undertake all reasonable efforts to ensure that indigenous communities are aware of the value and importance of education and of the significance of community support for school enrolment.

                         61. States parties should ensure that school facilities are easily accessible where indigenous children live. If required, States parties should support the use of media, such as radio broadcasts and long distance education programmes (internet-based) for educational purposes and establish mobile schools for indigenous peoples who practice nomadic traditions. The school cycle should take into account and seek to adjust to cultural practices as well as agricultural seasons and ceremonial periods. States parties should only establish boarding schools away from indigenous communities when necessary as this may be a disincentive for the enrolment of indigenous children, especially girls. Boarding schools should comply with culturally sensitive standards and be monitored on a regular basis. Attempts should also be made to ensure that indigenous children living outside their communities have access to education in a manner which respects their culture, languages and traditions.

                         62. Article 30 of the Convention establishes the right of the indigenous child to use his or her own language. In order to implement this right, education in the child’s own language is essential. Article 28 of the ILO Convention No. 169 affirms that indigenous children shall be taught to read and write in their own language besides being accorded the opportunity to attain fluency in the official languages of the country. Bilingual and inter-cultural curricula are important criteria for the education of indigenous children. Teachers of indigenous children should to the extent possible be recruited from within indigenous communities and given adequate support and training.

                         63. With reference to article 31 of the Convention, the Committee notes the many positive benefits of participation in sports, traditional games, physical education, and recreational activities and calls on States parties to ensure that indigenous children enjoy the effective exercise of these rights.